Learning with Technology – What the Research says

I attended a short but intense event run by the London Knowledge Lab. It’s amazing what you can pack into two hours if you organise it well. The seminar comprised a couple of brief talks, followed by a kind of organised free-for-all in which attendees were encouraged to spend around ten minutes looking at each of several demonstrations of work in progress. I haven’t had time to explore everything I saw or heard about, so here are some general bullet points which may prove useful.

  • A talk by Vanessa Pittard of the Department for Education reinforced the English government’s hands-off approach to education technology. Although, of course, this so-called “hands-off” approach has the same sort of paradox that advocates of free trade and laissez-faire have always faced, which is that you need a lot of government intervention to ensure it happens. Thus it is that the government has taken steps to make it possible for free schools to be set up up, as well as academies and studio schools, and has taken various steps to try to enhance the quality of teaching, and is supporting several technology-related initiatives, such as the Vital programme and a £2m work with Nesta to explore how technology can facilitate learning both inside and outside the classroom. So not quite hands-off, but better, in my opinion, than the days of computer-pupil ratio targets, necessary as they may once have been.
  • Professor Richard Noss stressed the importance of design. The Technology-Enhanced Learning programme, he said, believes that technology should be built that enables people to learn easily. For this, design is crucial: in education, people are using tools which were not designed for the purpose. This is something which Neil McLean, in his Becta days, pointed out: pupils are being taught skills like word-processing on word processors that were intended for use as word-processors, not teaching aids. Look out for a report coming soon: “System Upgrade? Realising the Vision for Education UK”
  • It’s worth having a look around the London Knowledge Lab site, especially as there are more events planned, the next one being on the subject of Computer Science, while the TEL site has some links to interesting-looking projects.